People who are at high risk of diabetes may be able to lower
their risk just by taking a long stroll, according to a study completed by the
University of Washington and reported by Reuters.
Researchers have long known that diet and exercise can lower
your risk of diabetes, a blood sugar disorder that is disproportionately found
among Latinos. But this is the first study to pinpoint exactly how much
exercise (and how many steps) are needed to make an impact.
For the study, researchers asked more than 1,800 study
participants to wear a pedometer for one week and tally the exact number of
steps they took each day. About a quarter of the group was low activity (taking
fewer than 3,500 steps a day) and half of the group was moderately active
(taking fewer than 7,800 steps per day).
At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had
diabetes. At a five-year follow up, 243 participants had developed the
Researchers found that about 17 percent of the people in the
lowest activity group developed diabetes, compared to 12 percent of the people
who took more than 3,500 steps per days.
Furthermore, after taking into account high risk factors for
diabetes (like age and smoking history), researchers found that people who
walked the most were 29 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who
walked the least.
"Our finding wasn't surprising given that other studies
have shown that even light activity is associated with a lower risk of
diabetes," said Amanda Fretts, lead author of the study. “Increased
physical activity may prevent weight gain and promote weight loss, a major
determinant of diabetes risk.”
How does walking produce these effects? According to Fretts,
physical activity affects glucose and other molecules in the body that are
linked to diabetes.
If you’re starting your own walking routine, keep in mind
that one mile is around 2,000 steps and daily walking recommendations are about
a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.